Stranded across the Rohtang

Travel time: October 1995  |  by Roshni P.

A little about Koksar and the Bihari wor

Koksar serves as a base for the road mending organization. Most of the casual labourers are people from the poor state of Bihar. They look as dark as the coal tar that they work with! Bihar has hot climate and is a flat country. These men have never been at such a high altitude before. And here they are, working in some of the highest passes in the world – without proper clothing etc. It is really a sight to see them look inside your car. If you hand out cigarettes or toffees, they will surround you like a circus! It may leave you feeling very uneasy! They are not bad people but their looks can scare!

Most of them first work as temporary workers for about six months. During this time, they have no insurance or major medical support etc. It is indeed a sad plight. Every time I drive up, I carry packs of local cigarettes called Beedi’s for them.

We also found out that this story is repeated every year! People get stranded across but nobody does anything. It is left to fate! A lot of people die. A lot of the workers can take it no more and try to go across. Without having an experience in such a terrain, a lot of them loose their way or fall in to a crevasse and die.

When people are stranded for a long time, the instructors from the WHMI (Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Manali) come across and lead the way for the people. An instructor was already there to take people the next morning. We decided to follow him but we could not find any shelter. Most of the dhaba’s were now closed.

Diwali, the festival of lights was fast approaching. My father had promised to be home by then. For the first time, we were a bit unhappy with our situation.

Luckily, the office in charge of the operation was available. Immediately, my father (an ex-armyman) approached him and told him of our plight. The man suggested that he would go to the top of the pass the next morning. We could hitch a ride and try to catch up a stranded jeep on the other side. It seemed like an excellent plan. The man promised that he would stop at Gondala at 5 AM and honk the horn a number of times and give us 5 minutes to show up!

All settled, we were happy again and returned to spend the night with the gang!

Since we didn’t have proper clothing and had a heavy baggage. We decided to leave our stuff with Sweety. We would only take the haversack with some spare clothes and water bottle. We took out the poles of the tent and decided to use them as walking sticks.
I was too excited to sleep anyway and listened to the calmness of the night.

© Roshni P., 2003
You are here : Overview Asia India A little about Koksar and the Bihari wor
The trip
On a recce trip to the newly opened Spiti valley, I learned why mountains are nobody's friends! From there on, no matter where I go, I am always prepared for the worst!
Start of journey: Oct 12, 1995
Duration: 14 days
End of journey: Oct 25, 1995
Travelled countries: India
The Author
Roshni P. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 18 years.